But, on Monday, both Jaspal Rana, Indian shooting’s long-standing pistol coach, and Jude Felix, a former India captain, were recommended for the prestigious Dronacharya award, the country’s highest coaching honour. While Jaspal, a multiple Asian Games gold-medallist shooter, was denied the Dronacharya award last year after it was alleged that none of his protégés, including Manu Bhaker and Saurabh Chaudhary, mentioned him as their coaches in official records. Similarly, Felix, who took over the reins of the junior team in August 2017, was shown the exit door by HI following a series of below-par performances by the reigning junior world champions.
A 12-member committee, headed by Retired Supreme Court Justice, Mukundakam Sharma, on Monday, picked an unprecedented 13 names for the Dronacharya award, while an equally astonishing 15 names were recommended for the Dhyan Chand award, given to sportspersons for their lifetime achievements and contribution to sport during both their active career and following retirement. A single selection committee has been constituted to select the awardees among both athletes and coaches. The committee will recommend the names of athletes for the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna and Arjuna award on Tuesday. Indian cricketer Rohit Sharma and woman wrestler Vinesh Phogat lead the race for the Khel Ratna.
While Jaspal was recommended after both his protégés, Manu Bhaker and Saurabh Chaudhary, who have already qualified for Tokyo Olympics, credited the veteran coach for grooming them into world-class shooters. Felix, on the other hand, was recommended after he informed in his award’s application form to have coached players who made a successful transition from junior to senior level in just 12 months, besides mentoring the Indian team which won gold at the 2014 Incheon Asian Games.
The most interesting part about the selection was the number of recommendations by the committee. Last year, a different selection committee had recommended five names for Dhyan Chand award and another eight for Dronacharya award, both first in the awards’ history. As per the government’s awards selection criteria, a committee can recommend three names for Dhyan Chand award and five for Dronacharya award. But this year, the committee has forwarded 15 names for Dhyan Chand award and 13 names for Dronacharya award to the sports ministry for its final approval.
Some of the other names recommended in Dronacharya award (lifetime) include long-serving archery coach Dharmendra Tiwari, who shaped the careers of Deepika Kumari, Atanu Das and Jayant Talukdar, among others, former women’s boxing coach Shiv Singh, former men’s hockey coach Romesh Pathania (mentored committee member Sardar Singh, PR Sreejesh and VR Raghunath, among others), Naresh Kumar (tennis) and OP Dahiya (wrestling). In the regular Dronacharya award category, the names of Gaurav Khanna (para-badminton), Kuldeep Handoo (wushu) and Yogesh Malviya (mallakhamb) were recommended.
For Dhyan Chand award, the names of Atlanta Olympian and five-time national boxing champion, Lakha Singh, whose poor financial condition forced him to drive a rented taxi in Ludhiana, and former Davis Cup captain and coach, Nandan Bal, have been recommended. Some of the other 15 names include Jincy Philips (athletics), Trupti Murgunde (badminton), Sukhwinder Singh Sandhu (football) and late Sachin Nag (swimming), among others.
Names recommended for Dronacharya award:
Lifetime category: Dharmendra Tiwari (archery), Purshottam Rai (athletics), Shiv Singh (boxing), Romesh Pathania (hockey), K K Hooda (kabaddi), Vijay Munishwar (para powerlifting), Naresh Kumar (tennis), OP Dahiya (wrestling).
Regular category: Yogesh Malviya (mallakhamb), Gaurav Khanna (para badminton), Jaspal Rana (shooting), Kuldeep Handoo (wushu) and Jude Felix (hockey).
Names recommended for Dhyan Chand award: Jincy Philips (athletics), Kuldeep Singh Bhullar (athletics), Trupti Murgunde (badminton), Pradeep Gandhe (badminton), N Usha (boxing), Lakha Singh (boxing), Sukhwinder Singh Sandhu (football), Ajeet Singh (hockey), Manpreet Singh (kabaddi), Manjeet Singh (rowing), Late Sachin Nag (swimming), Nandan Bal (tennis), Netar Pal Hooda (wrestling) and J Ranjit Kumar (para athletics)